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MICA Travels are a group of family and friends that are dedicated to raise awareness of Bile duct cancer and sepsis, two illnesses that claim 1000’s of lives each year and are barely known about. I lost my wife; our sons lost their mother and many others lost a dear friend. We as group will be doing a series of endurance activities to raise money for these charities as a lasting memorial to Carol, so that our sudden loss is not in vain.

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14/214 Fells completed

Ickworth re-visited.

Posted in Walking Stories by Mike Hall
Ickworth House

Ikworth 18th August 2021

Well as promised, more rambling about my ramblings, this time I’m back at Ickworth again. This is my second solo trip out, so what! I hear you say, well it’s all about my little steps along my grief journey. Ickworth is only about 20 mins for me and despite driving past the place for so many years, it was only a couple of years ago that we actually went there, but we never walked the grounds. So I am re-treading old ground that I went with my wife, but also new ground as well. I don’t want to replace my memories but add to them, so I probably won’t visit the house again, well at least for a while, but will add to my story with my new adventures and who knows, maybe even bump into some of you on the way, and seems to me a nice way of keeping the story going.

But before I get started, I had to do a bit of an emergency thing whilst en-route. I happened to notice a man lying on the verge, he looked asleep, but it was such a strange thing to see. I carried on to a place I could turn round, which happened to be a café and it just so happened that when I pulled in, a police car pulled in at the same time. I jumped out and went over to the policeman in the car. He looked a bit startled, I don’t suppose he is used to people approaching him in his car, normally the other way round, anyway, I told him what I saw and whilst I think it was just some poor chap sleeping rough, but you just never know. He said he would investigate as it was literally 250 yds up the road. His bacon butty would keep, but at least if the chap needed help, he would be best placed to help. So off he went and so did I. I couldn’t just drive by and hope for the best; you just don’t know do you.

Anyway of I went to Ickworth and drove down the entrance, a nice lady inspected my card and said “you can park in the main car park if you want” I said that I prefer to park in the overflow car park, and explained that I will be lone walking and promised my wife that I wouldn’t go off somewhere alone that could be dangerous or I wouldn’t be found or looked for, so as I will be there for a while, If I park on the end, you will see when I get back. I know it sounds daft, but it kind of makes sense, as my wife knew what I am like, I’m happy to grab a tent and stove and walk in the mountains far beyond what most would walk, especially if I was “trying to find myself”. In my many stories of our adventures, I have found that there are certain distances that people are prepared to walk form the car. Some only venture a few feet from a car, others walk maybe a mile or so and often have inappropriate footwear so turn back at the first sight of mud, the more intrepid walkers will wander around 3 miles before turning back, and this is what I call the “roaming radius”. So beyond that, few walk and that was what concerned her, she knew that up to around 20 miles total was achievable for me and that was far beyond most occasional walkers, and that’s why she made me promise to only do that where lots of people walk about, just in case and whilst that does limit my adventures, I thank her for having the foresight to make me promise in the full knowledge that I wouldn't break a promise. So back to the walk, I parked up and consulted the map to try and pick a route that would give me 10 miles. Well it turned out that I needed to go all the way back up the road to the entrance and start the walk from there, so of I marched on waving at the nice lady in the kiosk as I past.

My walk started at the lodge house on a walk called “lady Hervey’s walk” a 4.2 mile circular walk but I was not going to do a round trip, well that’s a start I thought and adding other walks to it I will no doubt achieve my 10 mile target. I entered the forested glade into “Adkins wood” then into “Fountainebleau Grove” and finally into “Lady Hervey’s Wood”, so much for walking where I would have company, very few walk that way, probably due to the distance from the car, the “roaming radius” has already claimed most visitors by the looks of it! I joined the “Monument Walk” circuit a 5.6 mile circular walk, again not doing the circle as I would be adding another route on to this one. It’s surprising how many things you see when you just stand and stare from odd trees to butterflies and the cracking of twigs under the foot of an animal trying to go about its business without attracting attention. I stopped at one point where the tree cover opened up to allow the sun to penetrate the rich green canopy and provide life to the normally supressed ground foliage. Butterflies, dragon flies and sun beetles frolicked around like children playing in an open field. I just raised my head into the sun and said out loud “oh sun bathe my face with the love I once knew and grant my broken heart peace”. My thoughts were of my wife and the denial that flashes through my mind at time that she has gone, oh how I miss her. I carry a little purple note book, her favourite colour, around and when I feel things like words, poems or feelings, I scribble them down. I’m a believer of a sharp pencil is far better than a long memory! I walked passed the monument to the Earl of Bristol, through the woods and stop at the bench that I saw the loving couple sitting at in my last post.

This time the bench was empty, so I took advantage of the view and had some lunch. I thought to myself what a contrast to my last visit. Instead of fields of golden crops there is just stubble, they are still edged by green woodlands but the sky wasn’t so blue and instead of a husband looking attentively and lovingly at his wife, now sits a husband lost and alone. I looked through teary eyes to the sky and said aloud how much I hate this life without you and hoped that her spirit was a free and untroubled as the wind I feel on my face, I raised my humble bottle of fruit juice to the gods above and wished her peace and my unconditional love then sniffed and brushed the tears away, assembled my rubbish and donned the rucksack and marched down the sandy path towards my next path.

At the bottom of the hill I turned left onto the river Linnet trail, a circular route of around 3 miles, again I won’t be doing a circular walk. You walk along fields of sweetcorn some 7 feet tall and I think of the film “field of dreams” and I say under my breath “ if I build it will you come” silly but that just the way a mashed up mind works at times, you would try anything. After a ramble through open undulating fields, a few gates and pretty “chocolate box” thatched cottages you make a short but steady climb up and into the rear of the overspill carpark. I pass the car and notice that I have walked just a little over 7 miles. So a pit stop at the café and then another walk to get to the 10 mile target. The café represents another small step along my grief journey, buying a cream tea for one. I have not been out for a walk and bought lunch or a beer for one, so this would be another first, but one I will have to get used to, despite my flashes of denial. I walk to the Covid compliant ordering window and ask for a cream tea for one. The lady says we have run out of scones, is this fate telling me that now’s not the time to take that step, who knows, so I settle for a tea and a cookie and wait to collect my snack at the serving hatch. I walk to the tables and out of false of habit, looked for Carol, my wife then snapped back to the real world. The cookie wasn’t really wanted, more of an automatic response to the courage I summoned up to buy the cream tea. I scoffed it anyway and consulted the map to find what path I could take to make up the shortfall of miles. The Albana Wood seemed to fit the bill, so I grabbed my tea and rucksack and forged on to the path. I wondered around the path, rather worryingly nearly all the way back down to the bottom of the hill from whence I have just walked, but it veered round and followed back up the hill past a little thatched shelter and eventually back to the café. Unfortunately my aged apple watch run out of puff and shut down, so I wouldn’t actually no if I had done the 10 miles, so I walked back to the car and drove home bidding farewell to the lady from the kiosk. I looked by the roadside where that poor chap was lying and thankfully there was no police tape or road block, so presumed that the guy was just taking the opportunity to have a rest in the sun, whether he appreciated my intervention and wakeup call from the policeman, who knows, but at least he was ok. I got home and put my watch on charge only to find out that I had completed 9.4 miles! So after a shower and an Uber KFC, I went out under the cover of darkness an walked another 1.6m to get the target completed and no blisters! Now just need to write this up with a glass of red to help the words flow.

Hope you enjoyed the post and happy wanderings.